Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Little Bit of Spontaneity

Sometimes, the best projects aren't planned.

Yesterday, we had a less-than-perfect school day. We had an early appointment that ate up most of the morning. Then, since we were in town, we decided to have lunch with Grandma and Grandpa. By the time we got home, the kids were exhausted...and so was I!

Dinnertime snuck up on me quickly, so I rewarmed a pot of soup from earlier in the week, just to be done with it. As my husband headed out the door for a gathering of homeschooling dads at church, I started to feel guilty. What exactly had I done for school today? I determined that, before bed, we would do reading and math, and maybe some copywork.

Yeah, right.

We did manage to complete our reading lessons, but I knew that I didn't have enough mental energy left to teach math. I was so tired!

So, when Asher said, "Mom, could we do some art?"

I said, absentmindedly, "Yeah, sure...go ahead".

"I'm going to need some scissors and tape, too."

"Sure, fine...just get them from the drawer."

With the older children situated at the table with their paper, crayons, and other various art materials, I plunked myself down in my office chair and carelessly read emails while nursing the baby to sleep. I felt like a lousy mom at that moment, and worse, I was too tired to care.

An undetermined amount of time passed, and then, into my office waltzed Asher.

He was beaming from ear to ear, as he presented me with his creation:

"It's a boat, mom!!", he exclaimed excitedly. It certainly is.

"Wow, Asher! It's a wonderful boat!!"

"I started out trying to make an airplane, but it didn't work, so I turned it into a boat.."

"You did a fantastic job! This is really cool!"

At that moment, a cloud lifted from my spirit. I suddenly felt a lot better about my world. I've always known it intellectually, but here was tangible evidence that I don't have to orchestrate every activity for learning to occur. My son had taken to opportunity for some self-directed creativity, and turned it into a masterpiece.

Why do we beat ourselves up so much? Why do so many homeschooling families quit after just a year or two? I've wondered a lot about this, and I think I know at least one answer:

We've bought the lie, taught to us by the conventional educational establishment, that sitting in a classroom, listening to a teacher talk, is the only legitimate way to learn anything.

Obviously, we don't really believe this--at least not completely--or we wouldn't be homeschooling to begin with. Nevertheless, I find the thought patterns drilled into me over 12 years of public education begin to creep over me when I'm having an "off" day.

I need to actively silence the little voice that says things like:

"It's not a complete school day unless you've done some work in every subject."

"If it didn't come from a book published by someone other than yourself, it's not really curriculum."

"If it's too fun, it can't possibly be educational."

"Teaching life skills, such as cooking, laundry, and scrubbing the toilet, isn't really school at all."

"If you read it as a bedtime story, it doesn't count."

"If you didn't plan it, it doesn't count."

"Free time is wasted time."

No wonder we're so hard on ourselves! Who wouldn't feel inferior with this tape playing in the background?

So, how do you stop the tape and get your head back in the game?

I think, the next time I start to allow my thoughts to turn negative, I will remember the day Asher turned a plane into a boat...

...and I will go and do likewise.


RebeccaB said...

Thanks for reminding me of this! I, too, have that tape playing in my head some days. One thing I like to do on an "off day" is to declare a Reading Day. I read aloud some, they have some individual reading time & I do too. It really refreshes & rejuvenates us for the everyday grind. The hard part is only doing it once a quarter! BTW, I found your blog from "As A Mom..." :)

Tiana said...

Thanks for the post, Rebecca!

Declaring a Reading Day sounds like a great idea. We do a lot of reading out loud here. You're right, it is refreshing. :)

I just joined As a Mom a couple days ago. What a great group!

Tereza Crump aka MyTreasuredCreations said...

Great post!! I do sometimes go on a guilt trip then one of my little ones will say or do something amazing and I remember that they did learn even though it didn't feel like school. Then I remind myself that this is one of the main reasons why we homeschool so that they will learn spontaneously doing everyday things, not sitting behind a desk doing hours and hours of worksheets. :)

The Schulz Family said...

Sorry, I just read this and I had one of these days last week! This is my first year homeschooling and I have had more off days than on, but it all seems to balance out in the end. I agree that we beat ourselves up and try so hard to be like public school sometimes, when we didn't like public school so we homeschool to make it different and better!! By the way, we have designated "craft days" so I can keep my sanity together, as well as theirs!

Tiana said...

No need to be sorry! I'm glad this was an encouragement to you:).
We just had a "craft day" like you described yesterday--oh, and reading poetry, too. Getting out a book of children's poems really helps me get out of a funk.

Blessings to you and yours,


SmallWorld at Home said...

Fantastic post. You are so right on target! Thanks for submitting to this week's CoH.

Tiana said...

And thank-you for hosting! God bless!


monica said...

amen! :-)

Cookie said...


Thank you so much for posting this. I constantly battle with this. Although I thank God that I am learning to relax when it comes to school.

The way that I deal with those negative messages about school is to pray and to ask God what direction he wants me to go in with each child. It helps me remember that my kids are actually his and HE will help me make sure that they are learning what they need to.

I don't always remember to do this. But when I do it helps a lot.

Be blessed.

Melissa said...

"In this way: give your a child a single valuable idea, and you have done more for his education than if you had laid upon his mind the burden of bushels of information." ~ C Mason
You are obviously doing this, Tiana! I love stories like these and days that end like this one did for you! Keep on, sister!

Thanks for sharing a story most of us can really relate to!

"lunch with Grandma and Grandpa" is such a precious gift many kids don't get very often! What a treasure!

Michelle said...

Tiana, Thank you!
It's just after lunch and my kids are off playing... we haven't finished all that was planned today and here I am reading blogs!!! But they are playing, they are happy, they are communicating. Life is .... :)

Dana said...

My kids do so much more when I do less. I'm struggling to find the balance. After all, my son won't read unless it's coerced and my daughter won't do math unless I tell her to. But they are so active and curious they learn a lot when I let go a little and let them.

Abigail said...

Awesome post! It goes along with the one I submitted. Thank you SO much for this reminder. I, too, have to struggle with some of those old messages resurfacing after I think I have buried them. Grrrr!

I like how you have set for yourself a particular incident that you can point to as a reminder when you need it. I need to do that, too. In a way...I already do it, but maybe I need to write some down and then go read about them when I feel like a failing mom/teacher.

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I'm a Stay-at-Home, Christian, "crunchy" mama. I have been blessed with the calling to be a godly wife and mother. I am passionate about bringing up my children in the discipline and instruction of the LORD, through home education and discipleship. Helpmeet to my best friend and soulmate, Christopher since 1/29/2000, and mama to four little blessings, including a tiny, precious, newborn baby girl.

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